When Meagan Kittle Autry was a doctoral student at NC State, she knew that she needed support to complete her dissertation and earn her Ph.D. in communication, rhetoric and digital media. So she and a fellow student joined forces to support each other’s dissertation writing efforts.
Now director of the Graduate School’s Thesis and Dissertation Support Services, Kittle Autry is launching a new program this fall called the Dissertation Completion Community — an effort partly inspired by her experience as a student.
Kittle Autry and her colleague held each other accountable by keeping daily track of the number of words they had written on their dissertations. A former college athlete, Kittle Autry said her competitive nature kicked in whenever her friend wrote more words than she did.
In addition, the two would sometimes hold writing sessions together, logging hours with their laptops at the library or a coffee shop. They swapped drafts over the weekend and critiqued each other’s work.
“I realized how valuable it was to have someone to support me while working on my dissertation,” she says.
Keeping the Focus
With support from DELTA, Kittle Autry developed the Dissertation Completion Community to give students the resources and motivation they need help each other finish that complex written record of their research project that determines whether or not they earn a Ph.D.
Statistics show that up to half the 500,000 students who start graduate school each year will never finish. Many times, graduate students working on their dissertations have already left campus, moved on to a job or returned home. Without a campus connection, staying engaged in writing a dissertation can be challenging, Kittle Autry says.
The DCC is an online community that doctoral students access through Moodle, NC State’s learning management system. It provides closed forums where groups can congregate to support other dissertation writers, and an open forum where students can engage with the whole community. There are also learning modules to help students master the various writing skills and tasks involved in achieving a doctoral degree.
“A key component of dissertation completion is having a community of writers with whom to share work, discuss challenges and connect,” she says. “Students writing dissertations are frequently isolated and find it helpful to interact with those going through a similar process, facing the same challenges.”
Another tool that DCC will provide is an online “Progress Tracker” that allows students to check off individual tasks as they work on their dissertations.
Join a Dissertation Writing Boot Camp
The university’s strategic plan calls for admitting more doctoral students, and the Graduate School wants to raise the 10-year completion rate for those candidates to 70 percent.
To achieve that goal, the Graduate School has introduced a number of support programs for Ph.D. and master’s candidates. Among them is the Dissertation Institute, held at the end of each semester in the Hunt Library’s Creativity Studio.
The five-day dissertation writing “boot camp” provides students with intensive writing time, goal setting and motivational strategies, as well as one-on-one coaching from writing experts. Students leave the institute with a clear path and a strong start on completing their dissertations.
To register for the Dissertation Completion Community, doctoral students actively working on their dissertations can visit go.ncsu.edu/dcc and self-enroll in the Moodle site. There is no cost to join.
The Dissertation Completion Community is brought to you by Thesis and Dissertation Support Services and made possible by a grant from DELTA. Questions about the website before you join? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.